David Bell: Reds in a ‘great spot’ after 9-6 start

Through Sunday, Cincinnati held one-game lead in division

In one way, the 2021 season is already a success for the Cincinnati Reds. They have kept their fans’ hopes alive for three weeks and have been tied for first place or alone in first for all but the first two days of the season.

That hasn’t been the case in recent years. The Reds were 7-8 through 15 games in 2020, 5-10 in 2019 and 2-13 in 2018. They are 9-6 in 2020, and it’s the first time they’ve had a winning record at this point since 2017 when they were also 9-6. That 2017 team stayed in contention until a nine-game losing streak in June.

It’s too early to tell whether the Reds, who were off Monday and start a three-game series at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday, can contend for the National League Central Division title or a wild-card berth all season, but there are some encouraging signs. Here are three:

1. The offense continues to produce: The Reds lead baseball in runs (6.1) and home runs (1.6) per game. They have the fourth-best on-base percentage (.338).

“I think we’ve got a good lineup,” said first baseman Joey Votto on Friday after the Reds hit the 10-run mark for the fourth time. “When I’m sitting in the dugout watching the next batter or watching someone later in the lineup, I feel confident. I think we all do. We might be a talented lineup, and I don’t know if I can say much more than that. If we’re going to string together offense, it’s just talented guys handing the bat off to the next guy. It’s fun being a part of a lineup like this. I’m not sure if I’ve been a part of a lineup like this in my career so far. It’s very early. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.”

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2. Votto is starting to hit: He was hitting .184 through the first four series and raised his average to .268 by going 7-for-11 in three games against the Cleveland Indians.

“He’s been hitting the ball hard,” manager David Bell said Sunday. “Now he’s just seeing the ball better, getting deep into counts, walking a little bit and continuing to hit the ball hard. He’s mixed a few homers in there, too, in the last week. He’s in a great spot, and so is our team.”

3. Sonny Gray is back: Gray returned from the injured list Saturday and allowed two earned runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Gray’s return means José De León will now pitch out of the bullpen. De León threw a scoreless inning of relief Saturday in a 3-2 victory against the Indians. In two starts, he had a 7.71 ERA.

Gray is scheduled to pitch again Friday in the opener of a three-game series on the road against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Of his first start, Gray said, “I felt OK. I was very ready for the game. I felt there was a lot of room for improvement. My pitches were fine. Even the homer, I felt I executed the pitch, but I need to be better and I will be better.”


Diamondbacks at Reds, 6:40 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410

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